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Denver Arts Groups Have Creative Differences Over Funding

(AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

In an era that has city arts and culture institutions competing for audiences and money, and being forced to get ever more creative in pursuit of sustaining dollars, the Denver region’s arts and culture tax will be up for approval once again by voters. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the 2016 measure’s proposed revision of funding allocation is drawing complaints from those who point to a lack of diversity in the organizations that would most benefit from the change.

The Colorado Independent reports:

A growing chorus of critics says the plan to reauthorize the seven-county, 1/10 of 1 percent sales and use tax shortchanges most groups funded by the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District in favor of five Denver-based arts and culture heavyweights led mostly by white men — the Denver Zoo, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the Denver Botanic Gardens, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the Denver Art Museum.

The Scientific and Cultural Facilities District notes on its website that plans for the re-authorization have undergone a great deal of review and that large organizations’ stand to get $37.3 million less, while funds for mid-sized and smaller groups would increase by $22 million and $15.3 million, respectively.

The Colorado Independent points out that though task force recommendations give additional funding to smaller groups, the relative increase is insignificant and still gives 57 percent of revenue to just five organizations. Critics say dividing funds among those largest, wealthiest arts and culture organizations would give smaller groups the short end of the stick, while leaders of those larger institutions argue that fighting over the tax revenues could discourage lawmakers and voters from allocating funding to any arts institutions at all.

From the Independent:

The leaders of tier I organizations say voters would reauthorize the tax because of their loyalty to the five biggies. Not surprisingly, leaders of tier II and III organizations say voters will no longer tolerate the majority of the money going to overpriced Denver institutions. These less-funded leaders say the money should be distributed to organizations with affordable ticketing, throughout the counties, and between the region’s diverse and growing cultures.

Marielle Mondon is an editor and freelance journalist in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia City Paper, Wild Magazine, and PolicyMic. She previously reported on communities in Northern Manhattan while earning an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University.

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Tags: arts and culturetaxesanchor institutionsdenvermuseums